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Sunday, February 14, 1999 Published at 07:53 GMT


GM firm's 'donation' row

GM crops: International conference to agree procedures

A research laboratory, which forced one of its scientists to retire after he claimed there were potential risks from genetically-modified crops, is at the centre of a new row.

Environment Correspondent Robert Piggott: "Huge profit potential"
The government-backed Rowett Research Institute received £140,000 from Monsanto, one of the leading companies in the GM food industry, according to the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

The report alleges Monsanto gave the money for research into animal feed.

Rowett Institute scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai was suspended after saying his experiments showed the brains and immune systems of rats were damaged by eating GM foods. He later retired.

But earlier this week 20 scientists re-examined his work and signed a joint memorandum saying his conclusions were justified.

[ image: US plans to dilute trade protocols]
US plans to dilute trade protocols
The new row comes as an international conference in Colombia tries to reach agreement on the international trade of GM crops.

Its main aim will be to agree procedures that will prevent trade in GM crops from harming natural environments.

Developing countries also want western companies to be held liable if their genetically altered products do harm the environment.

But the US, which has some of the biggest biotechnology companies, wants to dilute the proposals so that there can be as free a trade as possible.

They will be fighting the European Union which wants to put caution before trade - only liberalising trade once it is certain that the products cannot do any harm.

Reassuring the British public

In Britain the government has been trying to reassure the public about the safety of the genetically-altered food.

Cabinet Minister Jack Cunningham told the BBC he believed genetically altered products currently on sale were safe.

Representatives of Britain's biggest retailers had asked the government for a clear statement after the scientists supported Dr Pustzai.

The scientists said Dr Pustzai's conclusions, which were discredited by the Rowett Institute, were justified.

They called for an immediate moratorium on the use of GM Foods.

The Rowett Institute, however, is staying with its original decision - that there was no basis for Dr Pustzai's conclusions.

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